1961's Konga," along with "Horrors of the Black Museum," "Black Zoo," "Berserk," and "Trog" all cast Michael Gough in a leading role for producer Herman Cohen. The actor had debuted in films in 1947 (the same year as Christopher Lee) and had just enjoyed great prominence in costarring opposite Lee and Peter Cushing in Hammer's 1958 "Horror of Dracula," but Cohen's horror films were the first to offer him star billing (by the 1990s he became closely identified with the Batman movie quartet, playing Alfred the butler). A respected thespian and Tony Award winning actor in straight parts for seven decades, he earned a devoted cult following for his numerous genre efforts, deliciously slicing the ham on such occasions: "No Place Like Homicide," Hammer's 1962 "The Phantom of the Opera," "Dr. Terror's House of Horrors," "The Skull," "They Came from Beyond Space," "The Crimson Cult," "Crucible of Horror," "The Legend of Hell House," "Horror Hospital," "Satan's Slave," "The Boys from Brazil," "Venom," "The Serpent and the Rainbow," "Sleepy Hollow," and "Corpse Bride." If one goes into "Konga" expecting a Michael Gough cheese fest you won't be disappointed, but if you expect the King Kong-type thrills promised by another misleading AIP poster then the final result must rank as a bitter disappointment, the last straw for Cohen's days at American International. Going down the same road as before (shooting title "I Was a Teenage Gorilla"), Cohen cranks out his worst ever script, rehashing Gough's one dimensional villain from "Black Museum," now respected botanist Dr. Charles Decker, just returned from a year lost in the Ugandan jungle, where the native witch doctor showed him various flora and fauna that displayed elements combining plants and animals (too bad this comes to naught). Restored to his teaching post at Essex College, Decker's housekeeper Margaret (Margo Johns) proves unable to penetrate his icy demeanor, intent on proving his thesis that insectivorous plants can become carnivorous, their leaves then used to create a serum that induces hypnotic suggestion (scraping the bottom of the barrel for the sixth straight time). This occasion is only different in that a friendly chimp is the guinea pig, first doubling in size then on the second injection growing into a man sized gorilla wearing George Barrows' old suit from "Robot Monster." The replay continues as the college dean threatens Decker's job, a rival botanist (George Pastell) threatens his work, and a jealous student throttles him for spending too much time with his buxom girlfriend Sandra (Claire Gordon). Each of these outbursts is predictably followed by Teenage Konga offing the oppressors, the tedious police procedural thankfully held in check with sadly nothing else to support such a bare bones outline. Decker rants and raves while Margaret fusses, intact until the final reels when Cohen suddenly remembers there's supposed to be a giant ape. Margaret's jealousy over the doctor's lustful pursuit of oblivious Sandra forces her to give Konga one final injection, and lo and behold he lap dissolves several feet until he bursts through the ceiling. Margaret bites the dust, Sandra gets devoured by a (wo)man eating fly trap, and Decker gets scooped up in Konga's hairy paw for a perfunctory stroll through London for a rendezvous with bazookas at Big Ben (at least "Gorgo" did some actual damage). The plants look like shiny balloons, the climax utterly laughable, poor Konga just standing there as the military barrage actually does its job (they NEVER succeed in those Japanese Godzilla epics!). The acting is strictly amateur night, nothing for the cast to work with, and even at that a most forgettable bunch, including a very young Steven Berkoff ("Octopussy") as an unbilled student. Michael Gough is really the whole show, going over the top as never before, and with a nondescript director like John Lemont at the helm what else could be done? George Pastell did yeoman work for Hammer, sparring with Peter Cushing in "The Mummy," or playing the high priest in "The Stranglers of Bombay," even the train conductor in "From Russia with Love," in and out all too quickly in a nothing part (Jack Watson's police inspector left speechless for the final scene, just a raised eyebrow). Arthur Crabtree achieved effective results with much the same personnel on "Horrors of the Black Museum," a potent shocker and great moneymaker, but after this puerile pile of putrescence Cohen found himself back in Hollywood for the next Gough vehicle "Black Zoo" at Allied Artists, a moderate improvement, before moving on to higher profile titles featuring Sherlock Holmes ("A Study in Terror"), Joan Crawford ("Berserk," "Trog"), and Jack Palance ("Craze").
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